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How to clean filthy, slightly rusty old bolt?

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing and Repairs' started by SKILCZ, Jun 1, 2013.


    SKILCZ Well-Known Member

    Trying to clean the bolt of a gun that when in new condition looks like traditional, shiny, silver-colored stainless steel. Right now it is caked on black on nearly every side with a possible area of surface rust or pitting on one side.

    Thus far, I have tried Hoppe's, copper brush, 0000 steel wool, Break Free CLP, and another copper removing bore cleaner. I also soaked the bolt in Hoppe's overnight. There is visible black fouling at the bottom of the Hoppe's now. The sides are less gunked up than originially, but it still is black. For the surface rust (not even sure if it's rust, but I suspect so) I tried a little oil and 0000 steel wool, but I don't think it worked.

    This is a decades old gun. I don't know if/when it was ever disassembled and cleaned, so the dirt/fouling could be really old. The bore is fine.

    1. How can/should I clean the bolt?

    2. How can/should I remove the surface rust? It's stainless, so I'm not so worried about the finish.​

    Thank you in advance! I maintain my guns in pristine order. This is not mine, and I never would have let this get anywhere near this gunked up.
  2. BBBBill

    BBBBill Well-Known Member

    Are you absolutely certain that it is stainless? Many carbon steel bolts are left "in the white" with the expectation that they will be cleaned and properly oiled. Rimfire or centerfire? Use caution around the locking lugs. Get too froggy there and you can ruin the headspace. I've seen it done more than once.
  3. Ken70

    Ken70 Well-Known Member

    Oven cleaner; try a small spot first, somewhere it's not obviously visible or functionally important. Q-tip to apply. You'll find out in 30 minutes.

    SKILCZ Well-Known Member

    It's a .22 LR bolt. I thought about just getting off what I could get off by the methods thus far, lubing it, and putting it back together, but ideally I'd like to clean it up a bit more.

    Is there any harm in soaking it in Hoppe's overnight? I've read other posts on here of people who have done that.
  5. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam


    Hoppe's will not harm metal.

    However, if it is out of a .22, it is very unlikely it is stainless steel.

    It's either polished carbon steel, or it is plated carbon steel.

    If it is polished carbon steel, the dark stain my not come off without using some Flitz or Semichrome metal polish on it.

  6. Catpop

    Catpop Well-Known Member

    Removing rust

    I ran across an article to remove rust by electrolysis (or reverse electoplating) in a magazine many years ago. I have not been able to find it since. It stated it removes only the rust and no metal. I wish I could find it as it would be great to remove rust from my diving tools as well as some old military arms i have stumbled onto thru the yeaqrs. it used a solution (?) and a battery charger I think
    Does anyone have any info on this procedure and material to accomplish this task. any help would be most appeciated.:)
  7. 243winxb

    243winxb Well-Known Member

    Soak longer, more like 2 weeks minimum, using kerosene or Hoppes # 9
  8. 45_auto

    45_auto Well-Known Member

    Have you tried the internet?

    This site seems to have a LOT of info on it:

  9. Lucifer_Sam

    Lucifer_Sam Well-Known Member

    If you have an ultrasonic cleaner, and the bolt will fit I'd try that. If not you might try boiling it. Just be certain to put some crumpled foil or something else on the bottom so the bolt doesn't rest directly on the bottom of the pot.
  10. OilyPablo

    OilyPablo Well-Known Member

    I have found a 50/50 mix of Kroil/Hoppe's #9 to be a great cleaner.

    I would first soak it in straight acetone to get most of the organic stuff loosened up. Then I would soak it in Kroil for couple days. Then I would soak it in Simple Green followed by boiling it in water and then another Kroil soak.

    Do these things and report back. Please post photos.
  11. Clark

    Clark Well-Known Member

    This is a fun experiment:
    Put a very rusty wood screw in a plastic pan filled with vinegar and salt.
    Put it in the microwave has heat it until it boils.
    Do this when the wife is gone, because it makes that house smell like vinegar.

    All the rust will fall off, and the screw threads will be sharp.
  12. SKILCZ

    SKILCZ Well-Known Member

    Would you try that on a bolt (the microwave, salt, & vinegar trick)?
  13. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam


    It's a polished steel bolt fer crizesake!

    Polish the tarnish off with Flitz or mag wheel polish or something like I said 6 posts ago!!

  14. SKILCZ

    SKILCZ Well-Known Member

    Got some Flitz and started polishing. I think there's a lot of gunk on there. Any suggestions for how to use Flitz most effectively other than just putting a little on and rubbing it with a rag?
  15. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    That's the way you do it.

  16. OilyPablo

    OilyPablo Well-Known Member

    Not at all sure why you didn't try to clean it first. See my post above. Nothing I suggest will harm the steel. Then when clean, you can polish it and lube.
  17. SKILCZ

    SKILCZ Well-Known Member

    Will perhaps try that, as well. I would have thought dropping it in water and boiling would be bad for steel.

    I did a Hoppe's soak for 2 days, but will try it for longer. Tried all the cleaning methods I listed in the original post.

    The Flitz was mainly for a spot that may be very faint surface rust, although I will polish the whole thing.
  18. OilyPablo

    OilyPablo Well-Known Member

    You can skip the boil if you rinse the Simple Green off very well with hot water. And immediate dry and lubricate (rinse with copious oil to get the water gone).

    Boiling water will not harm steel at all. And when you remove from the water with tongs the surfaces will dry quickly at 210°F and then into oil while still hot.
  19. Rule3

    Rule3 Well-Known Member

    The solution you described is excellent for cleaning brass. It is a mild acid (the vinegar) I use 2 cups of vinegar, 2 tablespoons of salt to a gal or so of water to clean range brass. Let soak 20 minutes and rinse really well.

    Would not stick a bolt in it. It will not do anything that has not already been done.

    For the OP you soaked enough chemicals, a "soft" wire wheel will clean it as much as it's going to clean.

    Got a picture of it???
  20. YZ

    YZ member

    I haven't read all posts. Repetition possible.
    Two things I try in a similar situation are
    •Lead cloth (great for rust or embedded residue)
    •Synthetic scrub pad

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